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National Care Home Provider Prosecuted for Safety Failings

A national care home provider and a member of its staff have been fined after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into an incident which left a young woman with full thickness burns to more than 40 percent of her body.

Incident & Injuries

Nicola Jones, 32, was left without any flesh on her ankles and required numerous major surgeries, including the amputation of all ten toes, after she stepped into a scalding hot bath. Nicola now faces further corrective surgery and has been confined to a wheelchair since the incident on 13 August 2013 at a Real Life Options registered care home.

Livingston Sheriff Crown Court was told that the immersion heater’s thermostat failed, resulting in the taps of the bath emitting boiling water. However, the court heard that the failure by care home worker Sharon Dunlop to check the temperature of the water before Nicola entered the bath directly caused her injuries.

According to colleagues who came to her assistance, it must have been obvious to Dunlop, a care home worker with 11 years’ experience, that the water was too hot as they ‘could feel the heat coming from the bathroom’.

The court also heard that it was a staff member’s duty to check the temperature of the water before it was bathed in and make a record of this. Real Life Options however did not provide any written guidelines to confirm this.

HSE Investigation & Sentencing

The HSE investigation found that the thermometers available in the home were inadequate. Further to this, the HSE inspection revealed that there was no risk assessment at all in place to address the risk of exposure to scalding water.

Sharon Dunlop of Drummond Place, Blackridge, West Lothian pleaded guilty to breaching section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974. The care home worker was served with a community payback order to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work over 10 months.

After pleading guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974, Real Life Options of David Wandless House, Knottingley Road, West Yorkshire, was fined a total of £20,000.

HSE Inspector Hazel Dobb said after the hearing:

“The injuries sustained by Nicola Jones were easily preventable by the simple act of checking the water temperature before she entered. Employers should ensure that their staff are provided with a thermometer and training in the safety aspects of bathing or showering people for whom they provide personal care.

“Thermostatic mixing valves that reduce the maximum temperature of the water at the tap, have reduced the number of accidents such as this and are a requirement in registered care homes. However, they are no replacement for a physical check of the water temperature. I would also urge anyone with an immersion heater to check that it has a secondary thermostatic cut-out to prevent the hot tank boiling if it fails”.

Expert Advice

If you or someone you know has been affected by a similar type of case, our expert team is on hand to offer free and friendly, no obligation advice. Call Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com for more information.

Source: Health & Safety Executive

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